Thursday, March 6, 2014

Inside Bram Stoker's House

Looking East along Cheyne Walk in the 1860s.
I've been feeling very visual in my writing lately. I also edit as I write. Sometimes, editing can be heartbreaking, so I'm sharing a passage that I just removed from my book.
Upstairs halls tell you more about a family than all of their downstairs rooms combined. Downstairs rooms are for showing off. Upstairs halls reveal the way that people live, the things they leave on the floor, the bedroom doors they leave open and shut. Truly, upstairs halls are more revealing than bedrooms. The floor in the Stokers’ upstairs hall was spotless, which is a sign of a depressed housekeeper or housewife. Elevated, Noel’s nursery was on the third floor. Mr. Stoker’s bedroom door was closed, as was Florrie's, but this she opened, allowing me inside. 
I replaced that passage with "Florrie opened her bedroom door."

Honestly, I don't know what the Stoker's house looked like inside. That was pure imagination. I've only seen pictures of the Stokers' houses on Google Street View. I do, however, have this information from the 1881 census:
Reference: 1881 Census of England and Wales
London, Chelsea, Chelsea South, District 9a, Page 1, Household 4 
Address: 27 Cheyne Walk 
1 inhabited house at this address 
Living there: 
Bram Stoker, Head. Married, male, age 33. Theatrical Manager M.A. [I'm assuming the M.A. means Master of Arts - Jill]. Born in Dublin [Ireland]. 
Florence Stoker, Wife. Married, female, age 21. Artist. Born in Falmouth [Cornwall, England].

Irving N. Stoker, Son. Unmarried, male, 15 months. [Occupation is blank.] Born in London. 
George Stoker, Brother. Unmarried, male, 26. Physician & Surgeon. Born in Dublin [Ireland]. 
Elizabeth Jarrald, Servant. Widow, female, 30. Nurse. [Place of birth is blank.] 
Harriett Daw, Servant. Unmarried, female, 21. Cook. Born in Middlesex, Nottinghill. [Notting Hill, part of London.] 
Emma Barton, Servant. Unmarried, female, 15. Housemaid. Born in Essex, Woodford. [Woodford, Essex.]
I think it's interesting that Mrs. Stoker's occupation appears as "artist." I know that she wanted to be an actress and appeared in at least one play, but I haven't seen anything about her being any other kind of artist. At that address, they lived a block from Dante Gabrielle Rossetti, overlooking the Thames.

By 1891, the Stoker family lived at 18 St Leonards Terrace. Bram's brother George still lived with them, but they had new servants, Ada Howard and Mary Drinkwater.

Not actually Ada Howard & Mary Drinkwater,
but somebody like them.
On St Leonards Terrace, the Stokers would entertain people, like Mark Twain, who remembered Mrs. Stoker fondly in one of his letters. I'm looking for photos and more information about both houses. Any help is appreciated and I will share what I learn.

April 10, 2014: To this, I would like to add that The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker lists Dr. George Stoker at 14 Hertford St, London with his wife Agnes, two children, a cook, a parlour maid, a housemaid, and a 24 year-old governess called Minna. That sounds like information the editors gathered from the census, which completely contradicts what I thought I read in the census. If anyone can double check the 1891 census, I would love to hear from you, as I no longer trust my memory on this point and The Lost Journal doesn't record a source for this information.

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1 comment:

  1. It's suprising how much of a sense of the dynamics of a household you can get just from census information.

    I talk about adapting information from historical documents for use in fiction in my blog post:

    I love the fragment of your writing here as well, even if you have edited it out it gives a great sense of what the atmosphere of your novel is going to be like.

    I look forward to your future posts.